Art of Accounting: Showing up

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Being available is essential for maintaining and strengthening relationships with clients…and everyone else you interact with professionally. Yet I know many colleagues who do not understand this and when I ask them why not, they always have an excuse.

Either it is summer and too hot, or too many people are on vacations, or they take off Fridays or leave early. In the winter it is too cold, or it might snow, or people are away on cruises. In fall and spring I get similar responses. And of course, accountants can’t take the time during tax season, or for that matter during the mini tax season in September and October, because of the extended returns they need to get done. This reminds me of the song in Camelot: “If ever I would leave you, it wouldn’t be in summer…it couldn’t be in autumn…” and so forth. There is always an excuse.

I work hard to “prove” my availability. I continuously call clients, drop in at their office or factory, send things and find excuses to see them. I realized early on in my career that clients like to know you are thinking of them and are available should they need you. I think availability is one of the most important traits to solidify a relationship, elicit confidence and get referrals. One story that shows the importance of this is when we landed a very large client because they got the PCPS membership directory from the AICPA. What actually happened is the client retrieved a copy of our peer review report prepared by another CPA firm in our area who also got the same call. The client later told us he would have used them since they “must be better than you since you used them for your peer review.” However, they never returned the call! Sometimes showing up makes the difference.

Two historic figures that also believed this were George Washington and Niccolo Machiavelli. Soon after Washington became president, he visited every state to create a bond with the people to show the “availability” of the president under the new constitution. Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, a “textbook” on leadership, about the importance of the leader’s visibility and availability.

I have been around a long time and still do whatever it takes to have clients understand my availability and I make sure of it. My suggestion to colleagues, and particularly my young friends, is to be available. Show up!

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Client relations Client acquisition Client retention Client strategies Client communications Ed Mendlowitz